Normal holiday stressors can be compounded when we miss someone we have lost or are impacted by other hardships. This year, the sense of loss – of a loved one, financial security and a sense of “normal” – has touched many of us due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we’re making plans to celebrate the holidays in unprecedented times, let’s take a break with Magellan’s Dr. Shareh Ghani as he discusses ways to address feelings of loss, practice self-care and make the most of this holiday season.

Magellan: Dr. Ghani, thank you so much for being here with us to share your many years of expertise in helping patients with behavioral health needs. Our first question: Is it possible to enjoy the holidays when we are experiencing the pain of losing a loved one to COVID-19 or something else?

Dr. Ghani: Thank you for having me. The pandemic has taken a toll on our community as we have lost loved ones prematurely, and we continue to experience sustained emotional pressure as COVID continues to spread. It is vitally important that we celebrate the holidays, exchange gifts and cards, gather virtually, and celebrate life. Spreading love and joy in these trying times will bring much-needed respite to the brain and body and boost our immune systems.

Magellan: How can we overcome feelings of worry and anxiety due to a job loss or other financial insecurity during this holiday season?

Dr. Ghani: Losing a job obviously leads to worry, anxiety and even questioning one’s own competence. The pandemic has helped many people shift focus to the “must haves” and not worry about the “nice-to-have” luxuries in life. Some are paying more attention to their health and fitness, minimizing spend, and planning for the future. Having a good strategy will help reduce the anxiety of uncertainty. If need be, talk to a therapist.

Magellan: Do you have any tips for people experiencing distress over not being able to celebrate the holidays in the way they may have in the past?

Dr. Ghani: One needs to evaluate the reason why we are changing our lifestyle. Social distancing helps stop the spread of the virus. Those who take this threat to our lives lightly may experience distress. Understanding the gravity of the situation alleviates it. We are celebrating in smaller groups so we can defeat the virus and return to our old ways of celebrating holidays safely. Think of it as a form of delaying gratification for better outcomes.

Magellan: What is your general advice for anyone who is experiencing loss to feel better and be able to experience joy this holiday season?

Dr. Ghani: Losing loved ones is a part of our life cycle. Human beings are resilient beings. Remember – those that we have lost would have wanted us to be happy. We should think about the happy moments we shared with those that are not here today and celebrate life.

Magellan: Why is it important to practice self-care and be an advocate for one’s own mental health?

Dr. Ghani: Good eating habits and physical exercise are key to physical and emotional wellness. Sleeping at least eight hours a day, hydrating well and experiencing joy and happiness are also important. All these things help with mental health. Relationships, family, helping others and being grateful add to a joyous life experience.